“My dear sir,” he said, “you manner indicates that you are a man of culture, which I am aware was by no means the matter of course in your day it now is. No doubt, then, you have yourself made the observation that nothing in this world can be truly said to be more wonderful than anything else. The causes of all phenomena are equally adequate, and the results equally matters of course. That you should be startled by what I tell you is to be expected; but I am confident that you will not permit it to affect your equanimity unduly. Your appearance is that of a young man barely thirty, and your bodily condition seems not greatly different from that of one just roused from a somewhat too long and profound sleep, and yet this is the tenth day of September in the year 2000, and you have slept exactly one hundred and thirteen years, three months, and eleven days.”
From Looking Backward 2000-1887 by Edward Bellamy. Bellamy’s work tells the story of Julian West, a feckless aristocrat living in fin-de-siècle Boston, who falls into a deep hypnotic sleep in 1887 to wake up in the year 2000. America is now a rigorously centralized democratic society in which everything is controlled by a humane and efficient state. The second most successful novel to be published in nineteenth-century America, its thunderous indictment of industrial capitalism and vision of life in a socialist utopia touches concerns still very much in evidence in the twenty-first century.
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